In a study published in the journal Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, more than 70 percent of mothers report that they played outdoors every day as a child, but just 30 percent say their children do the same. Researchers believe this shortage of outdoor play is hurting kids because children who spend more time outside in nature reap academic, social, emotional and physical gains. Ready to begin encouraging an enduring love of nature? Here’s how to get your child off the couch and into the great outdoors, from toddlerhood into the teen years.
Activities like squishing mud through their fingers, watching bugs march across a sidewalk and splashing in puddles deliver hands-on learning that ignites the five senses. Create an outdoor space that encourages creative, brain-building play for toddlers using basic, inexpensive materials, says Mary Kingsley, director and lead teacher at The Kinder Garden Preschool in Raleigh, a nature-based school where most of kids’ time is spent outside.
“Children are natural scientists. Placing stumps and logs in the area and allowing them to naturally decompose can offer excellent learning opportunities about nature,” Kingsley says. “Kids can watch for the bugs that help the process, like bess beetles, worms, ants and termites.”
Turn an old sandbox into a site for sensory pl